Friday, November 2, 2012

My Book Review: My Cross to Bear: Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman
Married six times, father of five children by five different women, owner and operator of a transplanted kidney and a long string of music behind him, Gregg Allman wrote his autobiography this year and he has some interesting stories to tell.  I recommend the book to anyone interested in a career in the music business.  It reads like a how-to manual in reverse:  just don't do as he and his bandmates have done, and you have a much better chance of living out your full three-score-and-ten in a much less dissolute manner than they chose.

Ironies abound here.  Gregg calls himself the songwriter and lead singer of the Allman Brothers Band, but he did not write the song that most people associate with them, 1973's Ramblin' Man.  ABB guitarist Dickey Betts wrote that song and sang it on a record that went all the way to #2 on Billboard in 1973.  It would have reached #1, but Cher's Half Breed kept it out of the top spot.  Three years later, Cher became Mrs Allman #3.  Betts dated Cher's personal assistant, too.  Cher fired the assistant.  Gregg fired Betts from the band.  Then Cher dumped Gregg and he hired Betts again, only to fire him again later.

The acrimony within the band resulting from overindulgence in drugs, alcohol and having each and every song sound exactly the same as the one before eventually led to the band breaking up.  Although he claims he once considered a career in medicine, Gregg (or "Gregory" as he likes to be called) forsook a chance to heal others and fell back on music, forming The Gregg Allman Band, of which he was to be the songwriter and lead singer.  The best-known song of the GAB is I'm No Angel.  Gregg did not write that song, although he did sing it.  As did Cher on a TV special.

Duane Allman
Led by his brother Duane, the original Allman Bros Band were true pioneers, developing a new sound in rock.  Duane's career died aborning in a 1971 motorcycle crash, but even today he is recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as the #2 guitarist of all time (running up to Jimi Hendrix, whose early death preceded Duane's by a year.)  They were based in Macon GA and were considered avatars of Southern Rock, which comprised rock, country, rockabilly and traditional blues.

Gregg says now that he was never interested in furthering the cause of Southern Rock, and considered his band to be the best in all the land. In the interest of continuing to make the best music he could, he devoted as much time as he could to doing the hibbidy-dibbidy with as many young women as he could place in horizontal positions.  The book details much of his bacchanalian past for no clear reason.

There was a time that they were the best band in the land.  Reading the book will show you why that did not last.

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